We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Yep. We’re going to need an eight-minute track for this one.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!
Today we’ve got Alex Sigsworth with us, and I’d like to describe him in one word: dedicated. Folks, this piece clocks in at around 6,500 words, so we would highly recommend grabbing a drink and snack before proceeding.
That’s enough from me! Enjoy this epic journey.
“Summer break was about to start. One we’d never be able to forget. An unforgettable summer. I’m sure everyone felt the same way. Happiness and sadness. Pain. All of it put together in one package. There’ll never be another one like it.”
The United Kingdom in 2012 was the coolest place on the planet. London hosted the Summer Olympics and became the centre of the world’s attention, following seven years of preparation that I’d never not been aware of growing up. Celebrations were held nationwide as Queen Elizabeth II reached the 60th year of her reign. Everyone was listening to Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”. Skyfall dominated the box office and marked 50 years of the face of British cinema. The first Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally culminated with the release of Marvel Avengers Assemble, bringing together pre-established heroes in a crossover the likes of which had never been previously seen. The video game to have was Call of Duty: Black Ops II, a title that all the cool boys were playing.
As for me? I was 15 years-old and growing up as fast as I could. It was also the year that I got to be involved with what’s still the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.
This is the story of three guys in their tenth year of school who went on a quest of self-discovery and imprinted a part of themselves onto something preservable. You see, we led no ordinary childhoods. Most children spend their younger years wishing to become someone they’ll never be, without noticing the life they have flashing right by. Before you know it, it’s gone before you can even realise you never stopped to appreciate it. But for us, 2012 is a year we can always go back to by replaying it again and again…
There was me, Chris Lee and Alex Hollings.
Chris was the comic relief who was good with computers and always brought us back down to the ground when we got too serious. We’d known each other since nursery, we were inseparable. We hailed the same home town, our shared stomping ground – and for all its flaws, what happened in 2012 is something I’ll always remember fondly.
Alex is the protagonist of this story but he’s not the one telling it. He was even more academic than I was but sometimes needed reminding that it’s okay to indulge yourself. He was from Surrey – we first met in secondary school.
The adventure we went on together is unlike anything I’ve ever done with anyone else and will probably never be matched. We never knew it at the time, but we were creating exactly the fantasy we’d always yearned to live.
It was also a year which had been highly anticipated due to the popularity of the 2012 phenomenon – something you probably already thought was stupid at the time and had likely forgotten about until I just reminded you. You may remember a lot of fuss being made about the Mayan calendar and how it allegedly predicted the end of the world on 21st December 2012. I’d explain how this was calculated but it didn’t happen and nobody bothered to research it properly at the time anyway (imagine that). If they had, they’d have known that there’s no evidence the Mayans actually believed the world would end when their calendar reached the end of its cycle, just like the rest of us don’t.
Yet, there was still a lot of hype around that particular date – most of it ironic but too much of it serious. Popular culture had a lot of fun with it – the most famous example of which is the film 2012, which neither was released in 2012 nor depicted the events occuring on the correct date. Exactly what was supposed to happen depended on who you asked, from Earth being destroyed by a rapidly-approaching-yet-impossible-to-see planet to the galaxy being ripped apart from gravitational vortices caused by astrological alignments. Pretty much anything you could imagine was predicted by someone somewhere – but there’s one version of events that few people know about. Until now.
In 2011, Alex was running a YouTube channel, AmazedAlex, but felt that he was making videos too infrequently which he’d then unlist or privatise anyway. That November, he started a new channel called ItsAlexHollings, which initially consisted of technology videos and vlogs. On 31st December he joined Google AdSense and was able to monetise his videos. This was the prompt he needed to start an ongoing video project that he’d conceived earlier that year.
On 2nd January, he uploaded its first episode. After considering titles such as Alex365 and Project365, he settled on Surviving 2012. In that first episode, he outlined the premise of the series: posting a new video every day for the whole year, each day’s video being filmed the previous day. At first, he’d thought about making the whole series an ongoing parody of the 2012 phenomenon but didn’t expect such a gimmick to be sustainable. However, he decided to keep the Surviving 2012 title as he felt it was appropriate due to 2012 being the year we were starting our GCSEs. His main artistic inspiration of the time was Christopher “Bing” Bingham, whose series of conversations with his past and future selves – Past Bing, Future Bing – made him want Surviving 2012 to be memorable, a time capsule of his life during that year.
From that one shot in the dark came everything that happened next. I can tell you that it was a success: he did publish a new video every day for the whole year. It doesn’t sound like much but you think about the process of making even one video: setting up the camera, lighting and sound, being interesting enough for the viewers (who I forgot he originally called “Survivors”), then editing it all. Now imagine doing that every day for a whole year in which you’re preparing for your end-of-school exams and also maintaining your own life off-camera and all of its responsibilities. It’s an endurance test that few people can see through to the end. Even if he could’ve known he’d make it to the finish line, he couldn’t possibly have predicted how life changing it would be for him – and for those around him.
At first, the videos were pretty basic as he worked himself into the rhythm of it, adapted to it being a part of his life; videos that were less complicated to film than the ones that came later were edited in iMovie. Eventually, when he developed a routine and confidence that the concept was working and was sustainable, he upgraded to Adobe Premiere Pro and began including episode numbers on thumbnails in semi-transparent grey. As the production methods became more sophisticated, so did the content. Videos came to have more carefully considered lighting setups, framing, crisper sound. His presentation became more refined and there was overall a greater sense that he knew what he was doing. Surviving 2012 is like a compressed microcosm of a YouTuber’s development, from learning how to make fire to walking on the moon. It’s a great case for practice making perfect.
The video quality increased and the view count went up. On day 126, he made a video announcing that the channel had reached 200 subscribers. On day 331, this number reached 600. That’s not a very high amount compared to the YouTubers that inspired him but, at the time, 600 people wanting to watch him daily talking about whatever subject interested him on that particular day didn’t just seem like a big deal, it justified the very existence of the project and was the motivation he needed to get through that home stretch of the remaining 35 days of the year.
Surviving 2012 really did become Surviving 2012 and a large factor of that was surviving school. School is hell. It always has been and always will be. It’s a place where all the worst aspects of society are concentrated together in a toxic chemical time bomb – and every generation seems to have at least one more bucket of anxiety-inducing stress and pain to be dealing with. My generation was the first to be using social media during their adolescence, so the safety of the barrier separating school life from home life was broken down, allowing the experience to continue even after the bell and ultimately meaning that school was a 24/7 problem. There’ve already been numerous pieces written about this and I’m not going to turn this into another one. Needless to day, what you’ll find is that unpopularity yields frustration and that such frustration almost always results with the student feeling it asserting themselves on social media to great success. See Daniel Howell for the primary example of the academic students who find socialising difficult being the ones that most often do best after graduation. Why? Because they spend a long time developing their true self instead of projecting a quickly-assumed persona. They learn to live with their insecurities instead of weaponizing them and it makes them a better person. School doesn’t revolve around them because empathy is unpopular. These descriptions can all be perfectly applied to Alex Hollings as I knew him in school. They applied to me too – and Chris. That’s how we became so close to each other.
But then he started Surviving 2012 and the other students suddenly started to notice. Not at first – but as it went on, more students started to become interested in it until it became something that he’d be asked about at break times and during lunch, often by students who’d otherwise never talk to him. In other words, he was becoming popular. In fact, he was becoming more than popular. The way he’d be approached by students whose names he didn’t even know and who seemed excited to be meeting him – they were treating him like a celebrity. Not because he was making YouTube videos – lots of us were making YouTube videos – but because he’d committed to it properly and was finding comparative success at doing so. The highest-rated episode of Surviving 2012 has over 10, 000 views. With those kind of numbers for a YouTube video? At 15 years-old? You become nothing short of a sensation. It turns out, making YouTube videos was something he was really good at, so the admiration he started to receive was a combination of both awe and jealousy. You might think he lapped up the fact that he was finally getting some recognition from the peasants around him but the reason he started making YouTube videos in the first place is because he lacked social confidence. Of course he didn’t use it to extend his ego. In fact, he even mentioned in one video that he’d feel embarrassed by people mentioning his videos at school.
As it began to take up more of his time, he asked me if I could start helping out with things. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. He wanted my help running the Surviving 2012 Twitter and Google+ pages, which I foresaw being a cool thing to work on – because this was before Google+ faded into obscurity and was closed. We had real fun with it and ultimately I became something of his number two, being familiar enough with how it all worked and what he did/didn’t want me to do that I was able to get on with it. This allowed him to focus more on making the videos and there was an observable increase in quality as a result. You could tell more time was being spent on them. I also helped run the show’s wiki but that didn’t really go anywhere and has also since been closed – unlike the Twitter feed, which is still available to read.
This is when the series really began to flourish and come into its own. One aspect of it that I think is particularly interesting is that it includes his original opinions of contemporary gaming. He doesn’t like Call of Duty, was skeptical of Halo 4 for not being developed by Bungie but still enjoyed it, is a “moderate fan” of Assassin’s Creed, owned all the Nintendo consoles up to that time except the Entertainment System and 64, had bought every Rayman game on launch day since Rayman 3, felt excited for Rayman Legends and New Super Mario Bros 2, didn’t think the 3DS’ launch titles looked interesting but bought himself one for his birthday with Pokedex 3D, considers himself an “intermediate” gamer and likes LittleBig Planet.
I wonder how many of these games will be mentioned by the other contributors.
However, there was one game that was covered by Surviving 2012 more than any other. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time… for the main event!
Alex and Chris had a Minecraft server called PXL8, for fans and viewers to play in and build.
The main landmark of the server was a mansion they’d built. It had columns of water used as elevators with lava between the walls as central heating, guest bedrooms and glass stairs. Alex’s bedroom had a private library and more beds than anyone would need in one room, a swimming pool beneath a ceiling resembling the Linux penguin that was the floor of the living room. The living room was built from Netherack, the substance from the overlapping hellish dimension that can burn indefinitely, and featured music boxes, a brick fireplace, a sofa, a mock-TV and a jacuzzi connected to the flume system.
The mansion was accessed by a bridge lit by torches that went between giant statues resembling their avatars as if they were Chinese dictators.
This wasn’t long after Steve Jobs had died, so there was a dedication to him there, as well as political propaganda against the Stop Online Piracy and PROTECT Intellectual Property Acts, something you may remember the Internet freaking out about at the time.
Minecraft is a place where you can design anything. It’s a very eclectic game where people can express themselves through what they create.
Some of the buildings created by other players/Surviving 2012 viewers, were: 2 Pixel St. (the church, which we had for some reason); a giant Finder logo; a bank with vault and roof access; a house built from TNT; a bar with a disco; a giant Creeper (the creatures that explode if you come to close) with a billboard displaying the phrase “That’s a nice everything…” (a reference to the catchphrase given to them by fandom); my house, which was next to a fountain; a “sexy shack”; an Apple store/prison; a village; a trade district; a shop; an underwater cave; a town square with a newsstand; a jetty; a cafe; a shared mine system and art gallery.
I remember it well, it was like a second home for me where we could meet up after school. At the time, my skin was based on Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we were all imaginative enough to enjoy it and were also friends, compared to most of the other students who dismissed it as too boring. We came together and built our own world to inhabit. No matter how bad things got, we could turn around and know that we had each other’s backs. Nothing was ever so serious that it couldn’t be solved with an evening on Minecraft. Often, in class, we’d talk about how we couldn’t wait to get out of that place and go to the pocket dimension only we and our friends on the Internet could access. It was the best of times. It wasn’t the reason for our friendship but it was the catalyst. Some days, that world felt more real than the other one and enduring physical reality was like a nightmare, a ritual we had to experience before awakening to the virtual alternative we’d constructed. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my whole life than when I was there with them.
The PXL8 server has since gone offline with only minimal talk of putting it online again.
In July, Alex came to me personally and said that he’d been thinking about going out with a bang, of creating some sort of grand finale or cinematic ending to Surviving 2012 and wanted me to help him devise it.
Immediately, I knew that whatever we did would need to tie-in to the 2012 phenomenon. If Surviving 2012 was a daily vlog, it would need to depict an apocalyptic event occurring on the 21st December 2012 from his perspective, as if it were really happening. Anything else would be a wasted opportunity. After almost a year of build-up, not doing at least something would seem anticlimactic and disappointing.
After spitballing some ideas, I remembered a poster that I helped Chris create for Film Studies. It depicted him running through the lower corridor of the English department, which broke-away at the end to reveal the Nether. The concept of the poster was about someone going inside the game. Yes, I know it’s not an entirely original concept but it was purely about the visuals. I think it still holds up now. The pixelated nature of the game made it easier to combine the two images because the borders could be more simply-defined. I thought that would be a cool story concept because the game had been covered enough times in previous videos. That led to my pitch of there being an apocalyptic event caused by monsters from the Nether invading our reality and the three of us having to save the world by venturing into the game to stop it. This is similar to the premise of a mainstream film which came along just three years later called Pixels, another thing you’ve probably forgotten about because it pretty much came-and-went. I specifically remember sending the trailer to Chris and his response being “I should sue”. I’ve not seen Pixels and I probably won’t ever just out of spite. It made the studio over $200, 000, 000 but whether it’s better to watch than what we put together probably remains to be seen.
But there was something else we needed to figure out. If we were making a blockbuster film, we needed a villain…
Some of you are ahead of me…
If we were going to have a huge army of monsters, they needed a commander, a mastermind behind everything whose defeat would signal to the audience that the world had been saved.
And that’s where HEROBRINE (finally!) comes into the story – and that, kids, is how I met your mother.
But just who is Herobrine? Well, it’s complicated. You see, there is no such character as Herobrine. He was never in the game. He’s completely made up. He originated as an Internet myth posted by an anonymous 4chan user. This is the initial post:
It was largely ignored due to its obvious fake nature. However, streamer Copeland saw it and was inspired by it to fool his viewers. By installing a simple mod which allowed him to reskin objects, he was able to make a two-block-tall painting into a scale image of Herobrine, as described. He then positioned it behind a door, and – during his stream – casually went through the door, pretended to be scared by Herobrine and took the stream offline. This is the event that made Herobrine a mainstream myth. After this, the fandom adopted it and created their own fanon around him, taking the character from an Internet hoax to a meme that died as soon as it became popular. Myths are only interesting if they’re tangential or niche – once they become popular, they no longer have the value of mystery and are no longer of general interest.
So anyway, I thought he was pretty cool and decided to make him the villain. Alex didn’t argue with this, presumably because he trusted my judgement. Of course, the big question is whether he still did by the end of it all, because it wasn’t exactly a trouble-free production.
I’d been inspired by the homemade movies made by other YouTubers with more time, money and experience. People like Freddy Wong and Craig Benzine who were one-man movie studios. I was aiming perhaps too high, but at least I wasn’t aiming low. I figured that if we didn’t try to reach that level of skill, we never would. I thought of it as being a trial by fire and I didn’t know how accurate I was. Making a film is the ultimate test of a friendship because it never goes entirely to plan and in those situations you’re improvising whatever you can with whatever you have. It’s like landing a plane. In this situation, we instead crashed the plane. But it was at least on the ground and no longer moving and everyone on it had survived. It was a Darwinian experience; we were like Werner Herzog, doing whatever it took to get the damn film finished.
Then there was the small matter of the title. We really should’ve left that until post production, once we knew we had a film to title, but our priorities were misplaced, so we went for titling it first. Originally, I proposed getting straight to the point with the title by calling it The Surviving, signalling to the viewer that it was the main event the series had been building toward. Eventually we went with the onscreen title of Virtual Invasion.
Because I was studying film, I was to write the screenplay, which also involved breaking the story. We already had the basic premise but I wrote a scene-by-scene breakdown which, in retrospect, is much more interesting than what we ended up making. More of the premise was explored, there were obstacles to overcome and there was generally more experimentation with the concept. Ultimately, though, we had to cut a lot of it out in order to complete it on time because we’d underestimated the importance of what’s actually more important than anything else: scheduling. It took longer to make than we thought it would and the solution resulted in the finished product having a dead emptiness to it. I think the big problem is that there’s no verisimilitude. The original plan answered questions the audience would have probably been asking whereas what was made ignores a lot of it and instead just proceeds through the plot mechanically in order to get to the end. That’s the main thing I’d do differently next time: plan it in as much detail as possible, spending any free time on more planning. I was living outside of town so I had to travel in. There was also the amount of time it would take us to get to each filming location and complete each scene before sundown. Make no mistake, it’s a bad film – and that’s because there wasn’t enough logistical planning and so it was built on weak foundations. If we’d put more time into pre production, it might have been more well-made and be more interesting to watch. As it is, we didn’t so it’s not. On the other hand, we at least made mistakes on something where there were no stakes. It didn’t meet our expectations but our expectations were the only expectations. As a result, I’m less likely to screw up on a big-budget studio film that a lot of people would be relying on to make them a living. In that sense, I don’t think it was a bad experience.
I approached the writing process with some key events that needed to happen for the story to be told. It needed to begin like a usual episode then be interrupted by an apocalyptic event. We’d then need to come together in order to form a team of heroes, then enter the Nether. Once inside, we’d need to locate Herobrine, break through his defences, destroy him and wrap things up.
The first episode of Surviving 2012 took place in lots of woodland, so I thought returning there would be dramatic. As it is, we ended up shooting in a different woodland that we were more familiar with because it made the planning easier as well as giving us more space to film with less likely interruptions from other people. The rest of it we decided to film at Chris’ house because we knew the space would be available and weather wouldn’t be a problem. All I had to do was find a way to tell a story in that space.
As for moments when elements from the game interacted with reality, I wasn’t quite sure how we’d do that. Chris was more familiar with that sort of thing and he devised an easy way to do it. Using the same modding technique as Copeland, he was able to take an in-game material we wouldn’t need and reskin it bright green in order to then build a green screen studio in the game for filming elements we’d then key-in to real footage. So we had a script, our locations and our production techniques. All we had to do then was film it.
We decided to make things easier by splitting it up into five episodes, which would give Alex more time to edit the later scenes and be able to take a break over Christmas. This meant that Chapter 4, episode 359, was published on 25th December, which may explain why it’s amongst the ten lowest-rated episodes. Alex also decided to make the episode numbers on the thumbnails red for added impact.
I don’t remember the filming schedule but I do remember that the first scene was filmed on 30th October. This was the same day that Alex and Chris filmed episode 304, Woodland Adventure. We decided that we may as well take the opportunity because filming Virtual Invasion at the same time as Surviving 2012 was difficult to accommodate. As production got fully underway in November, episodes became simpler, resembling the earlier episodes in order for him to be able to spend more time on Virtual Invasion. Filming that first scene was our most productive day because we got an extra video out of it. I’d imagine that we also filmed the second woods scene on the same day. To preserve the twist, that first scene wasn’t titled as a chapter, instead serving as a prologue. I can also be seen in the background holding the script. That speaks to how amateur the production was. The prologue, episode 355, starts as Alex taking a stroll in the woods before there’s a digital earthshake effect. An image of Herobrine is visible for a few frames before an arrow from the game lands in front of the camera with a simulated auto-focus effect. Alex then starts running and it ends. The idea was to mess with the viewer, not indicating whether it was a gag or not. The image of Herobrine coming on screen briefly was something I thought would look cool, though there’s no narrative explanation for it.
Chapter 1 begins with reaction scenes of Chris and I at our respective homes in the aftermath of the earthquake and seeing something in the sky. I think it’s a pretty cool sequence because it did something that hadn’t been done before: it broke the format. For the first time, Surviving 2012 included footage not filmed as part of a vlog or captured on a computer screen by switching to the third person with a cinematically-filmed narrative instead of a documentary style. It was part of my idea to be dramatic by surprising the audience, to show them that this wasn’t going to go the way they expected and that therefore anything could then happen.
After this, a title card comes up with an aggressive black-and-white colour scheme. I still like that choice. It was declarative and intentful. It said to the initial audience, “Yeah, we’re doing exactly what you think we’re doing.”
Chapter 2 reveals that a Nether portal has appeared in the woods. This was a simple rotoscoping effect that was easy to achieve because it was perfectly rectangular. Alex arrives at Chris’ house to see a Ghast above the roof – an effect achieved using the makeshift green screen we built in the game and resized to fit in the frame in the right place. I then run out of the front door and deflect its fireball. This was also an easy effect to achieve because the Ghast was no longer in shot by that point so all I had to do was act as if the fireball were there and it was animated later. We then go inside and I miraculously figure out everything. I decide that Herobrine and his forces must have managed to penetrate our reality using the dimension-crossing physics of DC Comics in which fiction is a parallel universe. No, I don’t explain how they’ve done it. No, I don’t explain what they want. No, I don’t explain how I know Herobrine is behind it. In fact, we don’t even explain why Herorbine has any business being the villain – if he doesn’t actually exist in the game, why would he be there? I didn’t think about any of this stuff at time because I wasn’t a very good writer back then so I just asked everyone to go with it. We then start “planning our attack”.
Chapter 3 seems to forget that there ever was a plan of attack because, in the plot, we then improvise the whole way through. The first scene is quite good because we return to the rotoscoped Nether portal and there’s even a shot looking through it at us from the other side with the purple filter applied. I liked that bit, it was directed very imaginatively. We then go through the Nether portal and into the Nether.
But if you’re thinking we filmed ourselves against a greenscreen and put the game around us, you’re wrong. That would’ve taken far too much time. Instead, we reskinned our avatars to resemble us based on the clothes we were wearing in that scene and recorded footage in the game with dialogue recorded separately. Exactly how we were able to communicate to each other despite Minecraft characters not actually speaking is something else which isn’t explained. Neither is how Alex was still filming when he clearly doesn’t have a camera because those don’t exist in Minecraft. Anyway, it’s not as inconsistent as why the Ghast hadn’t changed to look more realistic when it came through to us. These are questions I didn’t ask at the time when I was writing it and neither did Chris or Alex. So the film’s filled with plot holes like that. Herobrine doesn’t even kill us when he has the chance. His inclusion was a complete waste of potential. He doesn’t do anything, we never find out what his motivation is.
…and finally, Chapter 4 depicted Herobrine’s defeat and our return to reality:
I think that, apart from the blatant continuity errors and sloppy editing, the worst decision we made was the overall tone. We shouldn’t have gone for dramatic. The premise was silly and we should’ve embraced that. We should’ve gone for comedic, a knowing self-parody that doesn’t want the audience to take it too seriously instead of playing it like Shakespeare.
We took it way too seriously – possibly under my influence, perhaps because we didn’t know any better. There are gags in it but they’re not incidental, they’re all manufactured artificially simply for the sake of having them there. If you took them out, there’d be no difference to the plot apart from perhaps being improved as a result. We all acted out of character when we really should’ve just been ourselves.
Looking back, I think that the idea of surprising the audience by suddenly changing the format was ambitious. It’s just the execution that was rubbish. Perhaps we could’ve kept to the format and done a much less ambitious found footage disaster film but it’s pointless to think about because we didn’t so there’s no way of knowing how that would’ve turned out.
Still, as I say, we were overambitious rather than under ambitious, which is a good sign. What matters is, we had fun doing it. I know because the next video after the final chapter was a vlog in which Alex talked about the making of it and confirmed that he did, in fact, have fun making it.
I like to think the viewers enjoyed what we were doing, as it was Christmas week after all and we were reaching the end of Surviving 2012. It was our version of a fun little end-of-year party so I hope they appreciated the novelty of it instead of thinking that we were trying to harbour some sort of gimmick or of having jumped the shark.
What I know is, troubled productions rarely turn-out mediocre. They either force the filmmakers to fully exert themselves and make it an unexpected masterpiece or, as happens most of the time, they very much reflect the experience of making it.
The audience had been led to expect something, because between the start of development and 21st December, Alex would mention from time to time that he was working on something for the end of the year. In one way, that was a mistake because it not only prompted the audience to be excited for it but also revealed his own anticipation for it being finished. In another way, it did provide an incentive for us to get it done, knowing that people were expecting it. I don’t like the idea of having disappointed them after setting them up for something exciting. At the time, I seem to recall them being generally impressed with it because we’d actually been daring enough to do something so high-scale regardless of how well we’d actually done it.
Overall, I look back on the experience fondly. We should never have expected to make anything comparable to the films we liked to watch and I suppose it’s good for posterity. I still follow Surviving 2012 in real time, every day. I find it interesting how the way he now comes across as being an average guy compared with how it would’ve been perceived at the time is something of a measuring stick for the normalisation of geek culture.
ItsAlexHollings is now named BrainstormExtras and is used as a secondary channel to BrainstormAlex where he posts animations – a subject he studied at university before moving away to London. We don’t talk anymore because he’s so busy with his full-time job that he seems to really enjoy. I honestly don’t know if I’m ever going to see him again. I don’t think I will. I’d like to. But he’s happy with where he is and who he’s with and what he’s doing. I’m glad things have turned out well for him. After all, he deserves it. He’s even collaborated with Bing and is friends with him now.
I still talk to Chris a lot. He lives much nearer to me so we like to meet up when the planets align properly.
I don’t know what the fans and viewers that we came to know are doing now. We just drifted away from each other. I wonder if they still think about Surviving 2012. Maybe they’ve completely forgotten it ever happened.
The end of Surviving 2012 was a cathartic experience for all of us because that was when it became complete. He said he’d post a new video every day for a year and he did – and we stuck with it, watching it all. That ending had always been planned but we couldn’t quite believe we’d actually reached it. The people that had come to be involved in it, the community. It’s like a microcosm of life, from the process of discovery at the beginning, really getting the hang of it in the middle, realising you’re closer to its end than its beginning and by the time that comes, hopefully you’ve given yourself something to be proud of and have made lots of friends along the way. I’m proud of him. I hope he’s proud of him too. For that one year, I could rely on Surviving 2012 to post a new episode. It was always at least one thing I could be guaranteed to enjoy every day – and for a 15-year-old with all the struggles that come with being that age, that really meant something.
We wanted to do something fun and exciting together while we were young and foolish enough to pull it off. So we told a story about the end of the world, to celebrate reaching the end of something incredible. In a way, it really was the end of the world. Because that life we had with each other was soon to end without ever coming back. All we have now are the videos that we can watch and remember. It might just be a small thing on YouTube but it’s something I made with my friends. It matters to me. It still matters to me. I’ve no idea if it matters to them but it’s something I still think about a lot because of what it’s come to represent in my mind.
It’s funny, actually. Surviving 2012 was inspired heavily by that year’s biggest film, Marvel Avengers Assemble and now, as I write this in 2019, the biggest film of any year is Avengers: Endgame, a film about travelling back to the events of that first one. We briefly debated some years prior about the idea of doing a sequel and I like the idea of doing a time travel plot where we go back to 2012. I can’t see it happening, though. As 2012 becomes longer ago, the less likely it is to ever happen. In a way, this is it right now. This is my time travel.
As I think back, I ask just how many of the other kids are now able to tell a story like this? They may have been more popular and had more friends but that reign only lasted so long; whereas our great adventure, that’s something we can always watch again and remember. It might not have turned out how we planned but it’s something. A tangible connection that can take us right back to that time. We thought of it as a failure but it’s turned out to be more valuable than we could’ve ever expected. We didn’t know it then, but in the long term, we’d turn out to be the real cool kids because we can share the memory of an experience that will stay with us forever. The others don’t get to have that. I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world.
Whenever I’m feeling down, I just think back to that time and remember that I’m able to say it happened and that it happened to me. All of time is happening at once, we just experience it linearly. That means that somewhere we’re laughing together, somewhere we’re celebrating the ending of a whole year of consistent daily videos, somewhere that cycle is just beginning and somewhere… we’re fighting Herobrine.
Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*